Variety inducted five honorees to its Home Entertainment & Digital Hall of Fame on Tuesday night.
The 37th annual Press Play gala dinner and awards, held at the Montage Hotel in Beverly Hills, recognized industry executives and companies working in entertainment content in the home and digital space. For the fifth consecutive year, the event benefitted City Year Los Angeles.
Variety Co-Editor-in-Chief Claudia Eller introduced inductee Chris Meledandri, founder and CEO of Illumination, praising the producer’s versatile work.
“Naturally, I have been following Chris’s career throughout the years and have marveled at all his incredible success, though I have not been surprised at his ascent to greatness,” Eller said. “Chris has really proven himself to be an extraordinary leader in the entertainment business. He’s sharp, he’s creative as hell, he’s plugged into the zeitgeist.”
Meledandri shared a heartfelt letter from two parents who requested that he name a minion in the “Despicable Me” films after their late son, Peter, who was a fan of the Illumination franchise while he was fighting liver cancer.
“In volatile times like these, when it’s easy to lose one’s way, I find it very helpful to remind myself of the power that we all have to positively affect people’s lives,” Meledandri said.
Also inducted was Jim Wuthrich, president of the Americas and global strategy at Warner Bros. Home Entertainment. “I’m humbled by those that have come before and honored to have worked with many in addition,” he said while thanking his work team and family. “I’m blessed to have learned from them all.”
Jeremy Verba, vice president and general manager of Vudu, accepted on behalf of Walmart’s digital entertainment service.
“Innovation is a team sport, we like to say at Vudu,” Verba said. “It takes great partners. We have those in our studio, many of you in this room. We appreciate the trust you put in us and that you ask of us when we build things. We take chances together.”
Fox Innovation Lab, 21st Century Fox’s research and development center, was presented with the innovation award. Danny Kaye, executive vice president of global research and tech strategy, discussed the company’s experimentation with artificial intelligence and virtual reality and said, “We opened the Fox Innovation Lab to help us redefine the next generation.”
Eric Berger, executive vice president and chief digital officer for Sony Pictures Television Networks and general manager of Crackle, received the Deloitte media & entertainment leadership award.
“All of us here today share a common vision,” Berger said. “For a world to be entertained without boundaries. To achieve that vision requires a dual focus on innovation, both in terms of storytelling and technology that is more crucial than ever. How we merge those two will be the legacy that consumers are left with, and our mission is to make that legacy memorable and lasting.”